Graduate hoping to play role on the world stage

RCHS 2008 graduate Colleen Daly is looking forward to a trip to Ghana as part of her studies. Photo by Spare Change Photography.

What calls students to their career destinies after they graduate? That is the great mystery that makes commencement so exciting. For Colleen Daly, RCHS class of 2008, her call was to go west — to Whittier College in California, to be specific.

After two years there, Daly must now declare her major. “I am hoping to double major in theater and global and cultural studies (GCS).” The latter choice is an “interdisciplinary major that combines political science, history, anthropology, sociology and classes of choice that are based on a track students pick.” Daly’s track will have an added focus on African arts.

What makes a graduate from a rural high school venture out to study theater and the globe? Daly offered some insight: “I talked to so many people who took what they called ‘the safe route’ and found themselves in mundane jobs. I was not about to go to college on the other side of the country to take Business 101. Theater is something that appealed to me since high school. Now, not only do I get to act, but I get to write, teach, and inspire through what I’m portraying.”

Because of her choice of majors, Daly can take advantage of her college’s study abroad program. “The GCS major requires you to study abroad. After talking to the adviser, Katie Hunter, I picked the program in Legon, Ghana at the University of Ghana,” she said. “It was the first African nation to become independent, and it sparked the rest of the independence movements; its social and political history will be rich.

“Plus, the music scene in western Africa is outrageously awesome with an emerging music genre known as hiplife, a combination of hip-hop and Ghanain traditional high-life music.

“While there, I hope to really shape my senior research project. As of now, my topic is going to deal with the social, political, and industrial development of Ghana and how the transformation and adaptation of their art forms coincides with the growth of the nation.”

In addition to studying the Ghanain language of music, Daly will have the rare opportunity to study Twi, the country’s native language. “I am staying with a family who will speak mostly Twi, and all of my dealings outside of the university will have to be in Twi. I don’t have any idea what it’s supposed to sound like, but I do know that “nanti yi” means safe travels.”

After fulfilling her college graduation requirements, Daly has plenty of ideas for using her major. “I hope that I can do theater, but I’d like to be able to use it as a function of life. Arts are the most useful educational tools; there is so much history and culture that can be sustained and perpetuated. I would also like to be a teacher in some way. I want to continue studying and perhaps work for some sort of cultural foundation — like National Geographic. Anthropologist and ethnobotanist Wade Davis is my hero. If I could be a journalist and cultural scientist like him, I don’t think I’d have anything to complain about.”

Daly gives RCHS much credit for her extraordinary goals. “My teachers pushed me so ridiculously hard,” she said. “The amount of work and their expectations on the quality of what we had to turn in and contribute to class not only prepared me for college but prepared me for the environment.”

RCHS’ standards of learning and excellence, Daly said, “helped provide me with a desire and drive to really reach above and beyond my potential so that I actually left class having learned something and grown from that knowledge. Plus, I always know that if I ever need an essay edited or a comforting hello from home, I can call on any of my old high school teachers and counselors. That’s definitely nice when I’m some 3,000 miles away. Rappahannock is unique in the way Whittier is. It’s slightly small and unimposing, but the faculty is genuinely interested and invested in the well-being and education of the students. They put so much of themselves into making sure we succeed.”